Labor unanimously vote to block plebiscite bill in parliament

Bill SHorten_1

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has announced that his party have voted to block the government’s proposed plebiscite bill in parliament today.

The much anticipated Labor caucus meeting this morning saw the party vote unanimously to block the proposed public vote. The legislation is now destined to fail in the Senate, facing the combined opposition of Labor, The Greens, Derryn Hinch and the Nick Xenophon Team.

Mr Shorten had been clear in his concerns about holding a plebiscite on marriage equality, reiterating prior to this morning’s meeting that he had not been convinced of the plan’s merit.

“I haven’t heard a good argument emerge at the eleventh hour of the plebiscite,” The Opposition Leader said this morning.

“Malcolm Turnbull can’t guarantee that everyone will be civilised in this debate, even if he is.”

In the weeks leading up to this morning’s caucus, many members of Labor have been echoing the concerns of the LGBTIQ+ community and marriage equality advocates who have been calling for a free vote to deliver marriage equality, decrying a plebiscite as expensive, unnecessary and potentially harmful.

Mr Shorten said the well being of the LGBTIQ+ community and their families was a key factor in the decision to vote against the bill.

“The plebiscite would cause harm to gay and lesbian people,” Mr Shorten said.

“I could not in good conscience recommend to the Labor Party that we support the plebiscite about marriage equality. I could not in good conscience do this because the evidence became overwhelming.”

The path forward for marriage equality in Australia is still uncertain however, with Attorney General George Brandis and other members of the Coalition insisting there will be no changes to the Marriage Act under this government without a plebiscite. Mr Shorten today announced he will continue to push for a free vote for MPs in Canberra.

“We could make marriage equality a reality today by having a free vote in the Parliament and that is what should be done,” Mr Shorten said.

“When you put to me Malcolm Turnbull has a rock solid position, I see that as the start of the debate. I believe Malcolm Turnbull is capable of changing his mind.”

The government are still expected to introduce the legislation, as Senator Brandis calls for Labor to allow the bill to pass.

“We could have this outcome four months from today if the Labor Party put political games aside,” the Attorney General said.

Prior to this morning’s announcement, vocal marriage equality opponent George Christensen said he would be pleased if the bill was halted.

“On one hand, I support I would be pleased,” the Queensland MP said.

“On the other hand, it really is the Labor Party depriving the Australian people of a say.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has not presented an alternative to the plebiscite, reiterating that the bill has already been introduced to the Lower House.

“The bill is in the house. It should be passed this week. It will then go to the Senate,” the PM said this morning.

“It is all very well to say the Senate will not vote for it. We respect the Senate. The Bill is not even in the Senate yet. The Senate has to deal with the bill.”

OIP Staff


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